> Agriculture negotiations news
> More on the modalities phase

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The selection was confirmed at a formal meeting of the agriculture negotiations — officially the Special (negotiating) Sessions of the Agriculture Committee — on 22 April. It is the result of General Council chairperson Mario Matus’s consultations with WTO members. He informed them on 8 April that the consultations “have shown a consensus” to appoint Dr Walker. Helping him in the consultations were ambassadors John Gero of Canada, who chairs the Dispute Settlement Body, and Muhamad Noor Yacob of Malaysia, a former General Council chairperson, Ambassador Matus said. On 18 March he had informed members that he was starting the consultations.

WTO chairs are formally elected by the bodies they chair. Ambassador Walker is the third New Zealand ambassador to chair the agriculture negotiations, after Tim Groser (2003-2005, now New Zealand trade minister) and Crawford Falconer (2005-2009).

Ambassador Groser returned to New Zealand to enter politics and Ambassador Falconer returned to become a deputy secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The present terms for chairs of the negotiating groups run from one ministerial conference to the next (usually a period of about two years, sometimes longer), unlike the chairs of the regular WTO councils and committees, whose terms are annual.

> See the current list of chairs


Dr Walker

The new chairperson has a doctorate in economics from the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, where he also taught. He has a 20-year career in trade and economics, almost entirely in the Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry in Wellington, and including a brief period with Telecom New Zealand.

Before his appointment as ambassador in Geneva in January 2009, he was principal economic adviser at the ministry, where he led free-trade-agreement negotiations with China and other trading partners.

His postings include London and Washington. In an earlier posting in Geneva (1991-1994) he represented New Zealand in Uruguay Round negotiations on services, intellectual property and trade remedies, and chaired the Anti-Dumping Committee of what was then the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).

After Dr Walker’s term as New Zealand ambassador began in January, Mr Falconer remained as ambassador to the WTO Doha Round agriculture negotiations, allowing him to continue to chair the talks until his return to Wellington in April.

Updated, with audio, 23 April 2009

The story so far

2000: Agriculture negotiations launched(March). See backgrounder

2001: Doha Development Agenda launched. Agriculture included (November)

2004: “Framework” agreed (August)

2005: Further agreements in Hong Kong Ministerial Conference (December)

2006: Draft modalities (June)

2007: Revised draft modalities (July)

2007-2008: Intensive negotiations with working documents (September-January)

2008: Revised draft modalities (February, May, July and December)

2008: The July 2008 package full coverage and the chair’s report


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